Renting a Motorhome

Tim Marrs
#Ford, #M5

When people ask me to name the best car I've ever driven, I find it difficult to answer. But ask me the worst vehicle I've ever buckled into - the most uncomfortable, noisy, ugly, and thoroughly evil disaster on wheels - and I'll tell you about the time I rented a motorhome

It was a friend's bachelor party, and instead of booking a hotel room, I decided that we should multiply the festivities by taking our party suite with us. I reserved the largest RV that I could find, twenty-eight feet of fun, and we headed for Montreal.

Now, I checked out some mainstream rental companies, but they wouldn't let me go to Montreal, for niggling little reasons that included rampant motorhome theft in that city. So I rented my beast from an independent outfit run by a friendly band of carnies who didn't care if I entered the thing in the Targa Newfoundland, as long as they got my credit-card number. Before I set off, Cletus warned me that I'd be charged extra for just about anything, such as not washing the RV and (seriously) doing a number-two in the bathroom. I suppose tattoos, generic cigarettes, and keno addictions don't pay for themselves.

I no longer remember the brand of this particular RV, so let's just call it the Road Molester. I'll start with the positives. The RM was based on a Ford E-series chassis, which meant that there was a gasoline-powered, 6.8-liter V-10 under the hood, which you'll notice is the exact same engine layout as the BMW M5's. That's what you call a pedigree. And it had a bathroom, a feature definitely unavailable in the M5 (yet).

On the negative side, pressing the Road Molester's brake pedal felt like sinking your foot into a bucket of rotten avocados. The steering had less feeling than a Keanu Reeves monologue. The polar moment of inertia was actually at the North Pole. The slightest bump would send a shock wave through the structure that incited a groan, squeak, or rattle from the doors, cabinets, cookware, aluminum siding, three-car garage, and whatever else was back beyond the driver's seat. Honestly, I didn't really know, because rearward visibility was roughly that of a horse in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby. I asked the guy at the rental place if there were backup sensors, and he said, "What do you need them for? I just have my kids and their mamas get out and help when I need to go backwards."

This is not to say that the big RM wasn't fun. It was loads of fun for my friends, who sat on the couch drinking beer and playing cards while I was behind the wheel, sweat beading on my brow as I struggled to keep the vast mass upright and between the lines. And that was a considerable challenge once I discovered the RM's little dynamic foible, a peculiarity along the lines of early Porsche 911 snap-oversteer - it wanted to flip over. And not just in corners. The thing felt like it could've flipped itself over driving straight down the highway.

Hitting an expansion joint at anything other than a perfectly perpendicular angle caused the suspension to settle into a sickening corkscrew motion, the weight transferring from one of the front corners back to the opposite rear, the dampers overmatched by the RM's sheer mass and ungainly proportions. Unless I slowed down, the frequency of the expansion joints would propagate this frightening side-to-side toss until it felt like we were passengers in a canoe being attacked by a giant squid. Also, sometimes I'd glance down at the speedometer and see that this drama was unfolding at 85 mph, because with 305 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, the RM was deceptively - and unnecessarily - fast.

After 700 nerve-racking miles behind the wheel, I pulled into the rental lot, gratefully handed the keys back to Cletus, and climbed into the car I'd left behind, an Infiniti G35x. Settling into the Infiniti's soft leather seat, I felt like a sailor lost at sea for two months who'd just set foot on land. The difference between driving the G35x and that overloaded hunchback of a Ford van was the difference between getting a massage at the Four Seasons and getting punched in the kidneys by ultimate fighter Chuck Liddell. No car has ever felt so fast and refined, so downright wonderful, as that Infiniti just then.

If you think you need a new car, perhaps all you really need is a new perspective. Save yourself some money and rent a gigantic motorhome. Better yet, get your friends to rent it.

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